Focus Focus Focus

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS! What dog couldn’t improve their focus outdoors?

Here’s an easy dog training tip for you!

1. Take a handful of treats and your clicker (or you can use a verbal marker of “yes!”).

2. As soon as you get eye contact from your dog (even if it’s a very quick look) mark with a click (or the word yes) and throw the treat away from you.

3. Watch for another look and repeat.

Do this exercise outdoors once a day for two weeks and you will be well on your way to a more focused dog. Happy Training!






Ouch! Teeth and Treats; Teaching a Soft Bite

I refer to them as “shark teeth”; the dogs that about take a thumb with the treat when they go to get their tasty morsel. Young puppies have a tendency to do this, but this can happen with older dogs as well. If this sounds familiar than this blog is for you, but even if you don’t have a dog that takes treats hard, you may run in to this situation in the future.

Many times dogs take treats hard because they never learned how to softly take treats, but It’s important to recognize when dog takes treats hard it can be an indicator of stress or excitement. My dog, Boy, doesn’t typically take treats hard, but there has been times we were are in public doing a training demo and his treat taking becomes harder than his normal gentle self. I know that he is uncomfortable in the environment. It is, at that time, that I change the picture for him. Meaning, I will adjust the environment to make him comfortable like creating more space between us and a group of loud children. Other times that dogs can take treats hard is if they are excited. This happened to Boy a few weeks ago with a piece of steak and I had to bring him back to Mother Earth by reminding him to be “easy.”



Remind them to take it easy and sometimes this is all it takes. If I can see a dog is excited I will say in a drown out way E-A-S-Y as I hold up the treat. Then I hand it to the dog. If the dog still goes for it hard I will turn my hand in.

Repeat E-A-S-Y and go to deliver it again. Sometimes I will have to repeat this process multiple times.

Exercise for taking treats softly 

You will need a larger treat- a biscuit size is perfect.

  • Hold on to the treat with your hand, cover most of the treat, except for a small portion of the end. Allow your dog to nimble at it.
  • Gradually move your hand and give more of your treat to your dog as he nibbles.

This is a simple exercise and one that you can do while watching TV.

Other quick fixes in the mean time:

While you are teaching your dog to take treats softly, I am guessing that you will still be in the training process using treats, so here are some quick fixes in the mean time.

Teach him to catch the treat

I like to teach this whether or not a dog takes treats hard. I get lazy in my training and don’t want to always bend over to hand a dog a treat, so I will teach the dog to catch the treat. It also pairs as a nice party trick for you. 😉

  • Hold the treat in your thumb and pointer finger.
  • Hold in front of the dog and say the word E-A-S-Y as you rock the treat back and forth (make sure his eyes are following.
  • Throw the treat directly toward his face
  • This will take several repetitions for him to get

Make sure you deliver treat like a plate

Another quick fix is to deliver the food from a hand that looks like a plate, rather from your fingers. This helps eliminate any grabbing and encourages the dog to lick the treat out of your hand.

If you put a little time and effort in, your dog will be well on his way. Does your dog take treats hard? How did you work with him/her on this issue? Share in comments below.





No Seriously, Get Out of My Way


WHEN a dog is underfoot

Does your dog get underfoot? Are you constantly trying to maneuver yourself just right to avoid tripping into a mix of disaster for both you and your dog?

For my dogs I have a “send out” cue. What’s that? I tell them “go on” and point where I am sending them. Wouldn’t that be nice to say one phrase and point and you didn’t have to play a version of the game Twister in your kitchen?

A dog’s perspective

First, to understand how this cue works, you must understand how dogs interpret body language. 

If you have ever watched a dog herd, he will move in the direction that he wants the flock to go. Dogs understand movement in a completely different way than humans.  Dogs use a combination of body movement, pressure and release of pressure to get the herd to move.  


Dogs understand movement in a completely different way than humans.  When walking him on the leash, rather than moving your arm to communicate the direction you would like him to go, you must move your entire body.

If I wanted you to move closer to me, I would take steps close to you and you would naturally take steps toward me. Dogs are the opposite. If I take two steps toward a dog, he will take two steps back. Have you ever noticed when you start to walk toward your dog, he will back up?


To communicate in a way that your dog will understand, you must use your whole body movement in the opposite direction that you want him to go.


For formal sessions

Grab a handful of treats. Take a step toward your dog (walk into him). As soon as he takes a step back you will say “good” and deliver a treat. Continue to add more steps. Do 1-3 minute sessions for three days.

After three days start adding a cue like “go on” and point as you say it. Use a lot of praise and treats.

FOR informal SESSIONS (every day life) 

In your every day life when you need space you will walk into your dog and say your cue like “go on” and point in the direction you want him to go. Continue moving into him until you get the space you desire. Be sure to use a lot of praise. 

If you are consistent with the cue every day as you need your dog to move or backup you will see consistent success.

Does your dog get underfoot? Share your experiences in comments below.



Michelle Huntting
Building the bridge of communication between dog and pet guardian. 



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Make Your Dog’s Day in 3 Minutes

Let’s talk environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichment enhances the animal’s environment with the goal to improve their social, cognitive, and psychological well-being. 

This is something that a zoo keeper has to constantly keep in mind for the animals brought into an enclosed environment from the wild, but something as pet owners we rarely consider. You can improve your dog’s life and also his behavior by offering him simple things in his everyday life. Below is a great enrichment idea for you that will take you three minutes of prep time (that’s it!).


I can’t be alone. I have a pile of bones at my house. My dogs love the marrow and as soon that’s all gone, so is their interest. So that leaves the question, what do we do with a pile of bones? I have the perfect solution!

Empty marrow Bone
Peanut Butter
Anything else you want to add

Stuff your empty bone, layering each goody. I like to top the ends with peanut butter to better hold it all in.

Freeze it if you’d like. Voila! A happy dog!

I bet you can get even more creative! Leave comments below of things you use.




Blog written by: Michelle Huntting
Building the bridge of communication between dog and pet guardian 

The Wolf, Alpha, and Owning a Dog

wolf2When pet owners, friends, strangers, and even doctors find out that I am a dog trainer, they begin sharing with me about their dogs. Nine times out of ten I hear these people say that they are not the pack leader even though they’ve tried, or they proudly share what they are doing to maintain the alpha position in their pack.

When I first started working with dogs as a hobby, I had the same thoughts myself about being alpha because of the information that my trainer and other popular TV shows discussed. In order to maintain the alpha position I was encouraged to “alpha role” my dogs (role them on their backs and hold them down), use the prong collar, and never allow them to walk through the door first or walk in front of me when leashed.

This training concept comes from the idea that wolves have a strict dominance structure where the wolves compete for the dominance and then are held in check with the alpha male or female. People have assumed that because dogs evolved from wolves, that their hierarchy structure is the same.

When I started getting into the science of dog training I was relieved to find out that the term “alpha,” coined by Dr. L. David Mech was misunderstood by the public.

In his book, The Wolf, Dr Mech specifically states in reference to the term “alpha,”

Hopefully it will take fewer than 20 years for the media and the public to fully adopt the correct terminology and thus to once and for all end the outmoded view of the wolf pack as an aggressive assortment of wolves consistently competing with each other to take over the pack.

We have discovered from research that dogs and wolves do not have the same hierarchy structure.

The problem from a scientific perspective with the “dog in wolf’s clothing” approach is that it assumes that the social system of dogs is the same as wolves’. However, domestication has changed the social system of dogs. A comparison of feral dogs and wolves reveals a number of important differences in their social structure…Leaders in a feral dog packs are not the most physically dominant individual. Instead, dogs with the strongest affiliative bonds or friendships in the group are the most likely to be the leaders.[Hare and Woods, The Genius of Dogs, 236-237]

Holding the concept of being alpha was stressful for me as a pet owner. Am I doing this right? My dogs aren’t even paying attention to me; do they understand I’m alpha? So I was very relieved to find out that I didn’t have to worry about my pack position any more. However, I knew that just letting my dogs run amok wasn’t going to serve me either. In the past 10 years I have discovered that I still needed to be a leader. The leadership style that has worked well for me and my clients hasn’t involve alpha roles or dominating the dogs, but mutual respect and consistency.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head-
that’s assault, not leadership.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

So what does leadership look like?
Being a leader with your dog doesn’t involve domination, any more than it would with raising children. If you’ve ever worked with children, you will find out quickly that dominating them isn’t a route that will bring about the results you desire and more than likely will have a negative affect.

I have found with my own dogs, fosters, and rescues that a mutual respect has to be developed. This would not be allowed with domination, but only with trust, time, and consistency.

Yes, rules are needed. If we don’t have rules there is chaos. Your dog will be spoiled and not only will you not enjoy being around him, neither will anyone else. We’ve all been around children where the parents never say “no.” Please don’t spoil your dog! It surprises me what little thought has gone into the rules of the household for dogs. For instance, are my dogs allowed on the couch? If so, is there an invitation required? How are my dogs to behave before I leash them for a walk? Are they allowed in all areas of the house?

Following through
One of the sports that I played as a child was softball. We all know that to be a good hitter, it’s important to make contact with the ball and follow through with the swing of the bat. If you don’t follow through you are cheating yourself out of a good hit. When you’ve created a rule with your dog like not getting up on the couch, it’s important for you to follow through consistently with this rule.


A good example of following through is if you tell your dog to “get down” off the couch and he looks at you. Rather than repeating yourself, you walk over to your dog and encourage him to get down by using the movement of your body (like patting the side of your leg).

When you create a rule everyone in the house must be consistent.

Let’s say, for example, your rule is “dogs aren’t allowed on the bed.” The first night your partner allows him to sleep on the bed, then the next night you say, “no,” and a week later you notice your dog napping on the bed, but you ignore the behavior. Being inconsistent will lead to confusion and will not work towards the results that you hope to achieve.

It’s important to consistently follow through with your rule. So in this particular example, you will tell your dog to get down every time he gets on the bed, prepare the environment in a way that will set him up for success, and ensure that everyone in the household understands the rule.

 “Leadership is the art of getting someone
else to do something you want done
because he wants to do it.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

Being the Leader
We can finally stop stressing over whether we are “alpha” in our pack and just enjoy our dog’s friendship through mutual respect and communication. Being a leader with our dog is much different than taking a dominant alpha approach. Growing mutual respect through rules, following through, and being consistent will allow for the great relationship with your dog that you’ve always wanted.

Blog written by Michelle Huntting


Have you ever taken time to look at life from your dog’s perspective? Have you ever thought about how dogs perceive human behaviors?   In addition to being a pet dog trainer, and an instructor at Kenyon Canine Institute, I am also a mother. One of my sons’ favorite movie right now is Tinker Bell. There is a clip from this movie that makes me think about the dog’s point of view when we, as humans, are innocently being kind or helpful. You must see this one minute clip.

What we see as a kind gesture, our dogs may see as a threat or sometimes as scary behaviors. I created a list of things to keep in mind to help keep your own dog comfortable.

Bending over or towards your dog. Whether it is to groom, feed, deliver a treat, or pet your dog, bending towards him is seen as a threat. If you observe human behavior, even though our intentions are good, this is our tendency.

When meeting a new dog, it is better to turn to the side, not maintaining direct eye contact. When I meet a new client’s dog, a lot of times I don’t look at the dog with my direct vision until I have been there for 15 minutes discussing training needs with the client. At that point the dog has been able to sniff me enough so we are a little more acquainted.

Do not make direct eye contact. If you look a dog straight in the eye he will see this as a threat. In a human’s world we are being polite but this is not the case from a dog’s perspective.

Walk in “S” form. If you walk towards a dog in a direct straight line, he will see that as a threat. We love moving straight forward; we move laterally. This is evident by the way we build our sidewalks, our roads, and our grocery aisles. Children and dogs are not lateral movers. Children are all over the place, and if you have ever taken children to the grocery store or your dog on a walk, you have likely noticed this as well.  So when moving towards a dog, you can make “S” type movements just like you would when you are skiing.

If you need to get close to a dog, allow the dog to come to you. Squat down, place the side of your body towards him, and let him sniff you. You can always hold out your hand to the side and keep it steady. Allow time for him to sniff you and do not make any quick movements.

When Meeting a Dog

  • Turn to the side; do not face a dog directly
  • Make “S” movements
  • Do not make direct eye contact
  • Squat to the side
  • Let the dog come to you
  • Allow the dog to sniff you

Hugging a dog. I have never seen another dog walk up and place his paws around another dog as a sign of affection. This is a human thing. We love to hug our dogs. Trust me; I do too. This is such a reinforcing behavior for us; NOT necessarily for our dogs.

How can you tell if your dog is uncomfortable?
He communicates to you by showing what are called displacement behaviors, or otherwise known as calming signals. These include: lip licking, grooming, shaking, scratching, yawning, turning his head to the side, and squinting his eyes. These signals can be used by humans to allow us to key in on when our dogs are uncomfortable. When you see these signs, you can adjust the environment accordingly for your dog. These signals are also used by dogs in social settings allowing other dogs to resolve or prevent any social conflict.


(Human hugging; dog lip licking)


(Camera in dog’s face; turns head to side, squints eyes, yawns)

The above behaviors are normal behaviors for a dog to do in his everyday life, so I always tell students to look at the context in which the behaviors occur. If your dog yawned when someone hugged him or leaned towards him, he is not in a relaxed tired state. He is uncomfortable. If he shakes after a bath that obviously served to get him dry.

Stress is subjective to each dog. What one dog might find as very stressful, another dog might find enjoyable. I suppose that would ring true in the human world as well. My husband finds jumping out of an airplane fun, whereas I am quite sure I would need paramedics waiting for me when I landed.

When I was training a group class in Orlando, I had a little puppy in my class that kept scratching. The owner said to me, Michelle I have tried new shampoo and she doesn’t have fleas I don’t know why she keeps scratching. I kept observing their training sessions and noticed that it was only after the owner said a cue that the dog was scratching. The owner was saying the cues in a firm manner, so I said, why don’t you try cuing in a softer tone of voice. She did, and the dog performed the behavior without scratching.

Dogs are constantly communicating to us; it is just a matter of becoming aware of how they say things; learning their language.


Notice in the above picture that not one of the dogs is looking at another as they are maintaining peace without direct eye contact.

Author: Michelle Huntting

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